The Confucius Institute at UT invited students and Knoxville locals to listen to fiddle tunes and the bristling, resonant singing representative of Mongolian culture as students of the Art College of Inner Mongolia University performed in the UC Auditorium Monday, Sept. 30.
Last April, the Confucius Institute extended itself to UT students and the Knoxville community by providing courses in Chinese. Monday night's event furthered the institute's initiative.
This is the IMU students' first time performing at UT and is part of their 16-day visit to the U.S.
Traditional Mongolian cultural performances commonly include a Mongolian fiddle, throat singing and bowl dancing.
Xiao Yan Sun, the academic administrator who is chaperoning the Mongolian performers, attributes the success of the group to an interesting source.
Many of the performers have won top accolades in the categories of music, dance and singing.
"Many grew up on horses," Sun said. "Mongolia is known as a nation that grew up on horses' backs. That's why they do art well."
This connection is carried into their art because of the way the nomadic Mongolians develop a close connection with the horse and learn the spirit of the animal, according to Sun.
Morin khuur, the Mongolian fiddle, has two strings topped by a horsehead. Many believe the fiddle sounds like the human voice. The horsehead tops all the fiddles and hints to the Mongolian dependency on horses not only as ways of transportation, but also as an integral part of their life.
Not only does the morin khuur center around horses, but embodies the same spirit as Mongol dance and throat singing. A horse headdress-capped dancer stomped and leaped briskly, shaking his shoulders. The singers performed a steady half-chant/half-song that recalled a mystic and ancient culture.
Tong Wang was enthusiastic about the performer's recent eclectic collaboration with the University of Kentucky's College of Fine Arts orchestra.
"Mongolian traditional music hasn't developed that much," said Wang, an art professor from Inner Mongolia University. "It is very pure."
Khoomei, the Mongolian art of throat singing was the feature act of the performance. Throat singing occurs when the singer generates two or three tunes simultaneously by using larynx, teeth, tongue and palate.
Influenced by Mongolia's spacious grasslands, throat singing developed because it was a way to express songs while projecting the singer's voice to far distances.
This partnership explored the blend of orchestral concert music of both Inner Mongolian and American compositions.
Confucius Institute hopes that performances such as these will be encourage entry into the Chinese language, culture and art to students all over the country, as reported by University of Kentucky news.
"I wish more people could have been here," said Cameron Hensley, sophomore in international business. "Personally I've studied a lot of Chinese history, but I've never heard much of it. I will definitely think of it now."